Posts Tagged ‘children’

When I was growing up, my parents had a number of remarkable strengths and talents.  One was a seeming encyclopedic knowledge of card games, which they taught and played with us.  Another was a love of unusual food preservation techniques, like drying food (either with the food dryer my father built himself or on the roof of the carport in midsummer, producing genuine sun-dried tomatoes, leftover Thanksgiving turkey jerky, and fruit leather), smoking fish (in the smoker my dad converted from an old refrigerator, in which we smoked fish we’d caught ourselves), and making apple cider in the fall with a cider press my dad built from a kit.  And then there was the spring we went to Florida and discovered my father know how to sail, which meant hours of fun on the Gulf of Mexico in the sailboat we’d borrowed from friends.  A fourth was telling us nonsensical stories.  Here’s a sampling:

Ladies and Jellyspoons, I come before you to stand behind you to tell you of a subject I know nothing about.  Next Thursday, which is Good Friday, there will be a ladies’ meeting for fathers only.  Admission is free; pay at the door.  Take a seat and sit on the floor.

One fine morning in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight.  Back to back , they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.  A deaf policeman heard the noise and came and shot the two dead boys.

If it takes a chicken and a half a day and a half to lay an egg and a half, how long does it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a dill pickle?

Somehow, I merited to marry a man who is also a sailor, and rather than being a whiz with food drying (my friend Sigal does that), I am the cake decorating enthusiast.  (I won’t go so far as to say maven; one of my efforts at a castle looked like Toad with two melting ice cream cones on his head, dubbed forever after as the Frog and Toad cake.)  But I’m passing on the nonsense to the kids.

Anyone got any others for me to share?


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I hate the phone.  I’m fine talking to people in person, and I love writing emails and letters.  But keep me away from the phone unless it’s absolutely necessary.  I don’t love it in English, and like most people struggling with a language that is not their own, I HATE it in Hebrew.  When the Cap’n worked at home, I had him do most of the phone calls, but now that he’s sitting all day in an office in Jerusalem, I have to call the matnas (community center) about enrolling the kids in swim lessons, the mothers of my kids’ friends about playdates and who’s going to bake the cake for the upcoming class birthday party (usually me), and the health clinic to make medical appointments, all in Hebrew.  Since those phone calls are often the only time I speak Hebrew all day, I suffer from arrested development in the language, and while I sometimes get out my thoughts just fine in fairly fluid Hebrew, if someone calls me out of the blue or wants to discuss something for which I have no context, I freeze up.

That’s what happened yesterday when Peach handed me the phone to give driving directions to the mother of a girl playing with Beans this afternoon.  I hadn’t given anyone directions in a while, and with a sleeping Bill in the crook of my arm, and half asleep myself, I couldn’t even remember the word “intersection” in Hebrew.  I stammered, made long pauses, but finally got out the information.  (She found us just fine a few minutes later.)  When I got off the phone, though, Peach looked up from her homework and said, “Wow, your Hebrew was really bad just now.”

Normally I don’t make much of those comments.  I try to be good-natured about them, laugh them off, and not take it too personally when my children make fun of my admittedly pathetic Hebrew.  But I had just finished correcting Beans on a question she missed on a Hebrew language test (telling her that luchot, despite the feminine plural ending, is an irregular masculine noun), I’d been caught unawares by this phone call, and I have days here and there when I’m feeling more vulnerable than usual.  I began thinking about all the things I gave up to come here: my family (which has already had to do without me every Christmas for the past 16 years since my decision to convert), my friends, my community, my quirky, charming Victorian house on a tree-lined street, my career as an English teacher (teaching it as a second language or to students who aren’t going to school in English is not the same), my shul community, and not least, understanding everything that is going on around me.  The vast majority of the time, I can focus on what is wonderful about living here, but every now and then, I think about what I don’t have anymore, and it gets to me.

Peach stepped on a landmine when she make that disrespectful crack (even more so since she’s working on a contract where she needs to demonstrate kibbud av v’em every day to earn a dinner out with me, one-on-one).  I kept my cool at first, but when I went up to her room to debrief her, I realized that my nerves were more raw than I’d thought and I lost it, listing for her all the things I’ve mentioned that I gave up so she could grow up here, speak the language, and feel at home.  Because while I don’t doubt for a minute that this is my homeland as much as a tenth-generation Yerushalmi‘s, it doesn’t feel like it every minute of every day.

Maybe this is good.  After all, while I sometimes miss the US, I don’t regret coming here, and can’t imagine going back.  But I think it’s also okay sometimes to let myself acknowledge that there are times when I feel like a fish out of water.  For Peach, too, I think it might have been good to hear that while we wanted badly to come here, doing so has not always been a joy ride for the Cap’n and me.  It will never be as easy for us as it will be for the kids.  Despite the fact that the girls, too, are immigrants, their Hebrew is very good, they’re going to school here from a young age, and will have all the formative experiences Israeli kids have that shape who they are, who their friends are, and their lives as Israelis.  As badly as I wanted my conversion (and as agonizing as it was), when I held Beans, my firstborn, in my arms in the hospital, I looked down at her and whispered, “I did it for you.”  Similarly, while the Cap’n and I knew we wanted to come here to live someday, we really let the children decide for us, and chose to come when Beans was beginning kindergarten so they would not be too far behind in first grade.

I’m not going to tell the kids I spent my childhood walking to school everyday through the snow, uphill both ways.  On the other hand, perhaps for them to know what I gave up to be here will make the experience of living here mean more to them, help them understand what it’s like for adult immigrants, and in some way tell them how much we love them in giving them this life.  It’s not like buying them a present and showing them the price tag; I think it’s more like giving them a rare gift and telling them it’s the only one like it.

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I received the following message about Lag B’Omer via email from my rav in the US, Rabbi Benjamin Samuels:

This Sunday marks the 33rd day of the Omer, Lag Ba’Omer, the day on which the plague that took the lives of Rabbi Akiva’s students subsided so many years ago.  Lag Ba’Omer is treated as a semi-holiday, and according to Ashkenzic practice, the mourning practices of the Omer are suspended, and according to Ramo, are fully ended.  Haircuts and marriages may take place from here on out. 

Since Lag Ba’omer fall on Sunday this year, many authorities permit haircuts on the preceding Friday, i.e. tomorrow, in honor of the Shabbat.

 This Lag Ba’Omer find a way to celebrate with family and friends.

Traditional practices include bonfires; singing and dancing; studying the Zohar, as it is its inspirational author, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s yahrzeit; pilgrimages to Rabbi Shimon’s burial place atop Mt. Meiron near Tsfat in Israel; first haircuts of three year old boys; roasting whole lambs; and my own childhood favorite, kickball at the park.

Most importantly, we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer as an affirmation that the health and healing of our people relies on our unity and shared destiny and that we can only approach and stand at Sinai to receive the Torah, כאיש אחד בלב אחד – as a single body with a common heart.

Wishing all a good Shabbos and a happy Lag Ba’Omer.

Since making aliyah, we’ve learned the ropes about Lag B’Omer in the Zionist Paradise.  Here are the rules:

1) Start collecting wood well in advance.  Don’t let your kids dismantle park benches (I’ve seen it done), but scrounge around the edge of town to get fallen branches, or save up prunings and yard waste from the year.  (And when foraging, watch out for snakes; they wake up in the spring.)

2) Close all windows prior to sundown.  And keep them closed.

3) Learn the safety rules of bonfires.  The week preceding Lag B’Omer is National Fire Safety Week in Israel, and fire stations all over the country host school groups (I accompanied Banana’s two-year-old gan to the one in Beit Shemesh) and teach the kids how a proper bonfire should be constructed, lit, and extinguished.

4) Find a good spot away from buildings with minimal vegetation near it.

5) Stock up on campfire foods (hot dogs, baked potatoes wrapped in foil, and marshmallows)

6) Bring instruments (guitar, accordion, your voice)

7) Nap the afternoon before.  Especially the kids.  (This should be easy, since this year Shabbat precedes Lag B’Omer.)  Teenagers often stay out all night, and when our kids were out shrieking at nine o’clock in the morning on Lag B’Omer, a neighbor gently informed us that the sanctity of a quiet morning is observed on Lag B’Omer just as it is on Shavuot (when many have the custom of staying up all night studying Torah).

We used to have a lovely (makeshift) bonfire pit near our shul which has since been paved over.  But sabra neighbors (who apparently have firm ideas about bonfires) have found a new spot a little farther away, and the mom and I have coordinated wood, a mangal (portable charcoal grill), and food to make this possibly our most festive Lag B’Omer ever.  Beans asked if we could take a table to eat our food on.  No, honey, with smoke in our hair and soot under our fingernails, this is a dirty-butt venture.

Have a happy, safe Lag B’Omer.

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Seven-year-old Peach’s new favorite CD is the Cap’n’s recording of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”  From my perspective, it’s not the most brilliant or textured collaboration of Lloyd-Webber and Rice, but it has some clever lyrics and does some great stuff musically (like have Reuben tell Jacob about Joseph’s “death” in a country-western song, and have Pharaoh’s song about his dreams be in the style of Elvis who, the Cap’n reminded me, was nicknamed “The King”).

Peach helped me clean the kitchen on Friday and we listened to the soundtrack twice through.  I asked her a few questions about the story to get the facts straight (she could answer them all), and at the end, I observed  how devastating it must have been for Jacob to think his son was dead for years, and only be reunited with him shortly before his own death.  Peach agreed that that may have been the case but said, “But the brothers saved the Jewish people when they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites.”  How? I asked.  “Well, the Ishmaelites took Joseph down to Egypt and sold him into slavery.  Later on, he told Pharaoh what his dreams meant, and told Pharaoh to save up food for seven years.  That saved everyone from starving, including Joseph’s family when they went to Egypt because there was no food in Canaan.  If Joseph had stayed home with his family, no one would have told Pharaoh to save up food, and everyone would have died.”  From the mouths of babes (and Torah-educated babes, no less) . . .

Now I’ve just got to ask her why the Jews had to be slaves in Egypt.

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Some of you have probably seen the video below in previous years around Pesach time:

In an earlier post, I stressed the importance of not combining spring cleaning with Pesach cleaning, and this illustrates it well, i.e. bathtub rings are NOT chametz.

Having said that, there is enough to keep one busy for up to a month ahead of time.  (My friend Sigal won’t say the word “Pesach” until a week before, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know it’s coming.)  By stringing out the things that need doing over time, it can save on prep overload in the last week.

After my earlier Pesach post, one reader (who kindly linked to my blog from hers) sounded disappointed at the lack of timeline.  For those who have the drill down from years of practice, the following post will probably not be worth a lot, but for those new to Jewish practice (or morbidly curious non-Jews), it might prove informative as a jumping-off point for your own preparation.

First, though, a few more time-saving tips.

  1. If you eat kitniyot during Pesach, have older kids (7 and up) help with the checking.  I check each item three times (which seems to be the prevailing minhag), and let the older girls do one of the checks.  (They do a good job, too.)
  2. Don’t kasher your own metal if you can help it.  Shuls sometimes have large pots for boiling vessels and experienced blow-torchbearers to do libun on your oven racks.  If you take everything scrubbed and polished, let someone else do it.  It is safer and can save you time, mess, and possible injury.
  3. Friends of ours in Newton had leftover linoleum from covering their floor and cut it to fit their kitchen counters, so all they have to do is take it out and tape it down every year.  If you have countertops that have to be covered or kashered, this can be an easy way to do it, year after year.
  4. If you have porcelain sinks, getting sink inserts (instead of lining with foil) is a quick way to make your sink kosher for Pesach (and use the insert every year).  Personally, I miss being able to kasher my stainless steel sink in Newton, but it’s a lot easier lining my porcelain sinks here with the standard-sized liners sold at the hardware store, so it’s a tradeoff.
  5. On your computer, save documents from year to year for your prep schedule, weekly menus, and a corresponding shopping list so you don’t have to reinvent the Pesach wheel every year.  The more organized you are in advance, the easier it is to get everything done.  When Pesach is over, go back and revise as needed for the following year.  (I also keep a document with an inventory of what I have for pots and pans, utensils, and serving ware so I know if something broke last year or I’m going to need new equipment for the holiday.)

Here is my Pesach prep schedule:

1 month ahead

□ Work on finishing chametz food in pantry and freezer

□  Start sorting kitniyot

1 week ahead

□ Do additional cleaning

  • clean around upholstery
  • clean carseats
  • polish silver (kiddush cups, everyday meat cutlery, candlesticks)

□ Wash/vacuum car

□ Plan meals and shop

  • food (especially non-perishable)
  • aluminum foil
  • paper/plastic ware
  • sandwich and ziplock bags
  • foil pans (lasagna, small rectangular, pie or cake pan)
  • 24- or 48-hour candles
  • regular candles
  • toothbrushes, toothpaste
  • dishwashing liquid
  • sponges
  • Shabbat sponges

□ Arrange to sell chametz

□ Clean temporary space for Pesach stuff in kitchen; line with paper/plastic

  • empty cupboard, wipe out, and line shelf
  • cover chametz or pack and store

□ Laundry (especially aprons, oven mitts, dish towels)

3-5 days ahead

□ Check for chametz

  • coat pockets
  • backpacks, school bags

□ Finish shopping

  • buy produce, milk, eggs
  • last-minute items

□ Fridge and freezer

  • toss most food; bag chametz food
  • transfer chametz food to large basement freezer; reserve kitchen freezer for Pesach food
  • wipe surfaces clean

□ Prepare vessels/utensils for kashering

  • scrub clean
  • let sit 24 hours
  • kasher (kiddush cups, parve utensils, everyday meat cutlery)

□ Counter tops

  • pack up food/utensils
  • scrub clean with caustic cleanser; leave 24 hours
  • kasher

□ Oven/stove

  • clean oven (self-clean cycle)
  • clean stove with caustic cleanser
  • cover stove surface with foil
  • libun oven and burner racks

□ Microwave

  • clean and stow in cupboard

□ Dining room

  • tie cupboard doors closed
  • clean booster seat
  • wipe down chairs, table
  • launder chair pads

□ Laundry

  • change beds
  • launder table linens

□ Unpack Pesach dishes and cookware

  • store in Pesach-cleaned areas

□ Begin cooking

  • finish sorting kitniyot

Day before Erev Pesach

□ Final cleaning (as usual)

□ Finish cooking

Morning of Erev Pesach

□ Bathroom

  • replace toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap

□ Trash

  • take out trash before chametz burning

Above all, don’t go it alone.  Kids in Israel are home for a full week before the seder, and not everyone sends their kids to camps for that week.  Put ’em to work!  If they’re old enough to do laundry, enlist their help to do it.  Some kids like to do wet cleaning better than tidying, so make use of this, especially if you were hoping to sneak in some spring cleaning or if you’re having houseguests for the holiday.  Have them scrub out the tub, clean the bathroom sinks and mirror, or take out bathroom trash.  My ceramic tile floors could use a good scrub on hands and knees, so I plan to station a kid every few meters with a bucket, rag, and brush, and let them Cinderella away.  (They love it, for some reason.)  Kids can help with washing fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruit to prepare for the meal, and make simple salads.  Above all, the Pesach table should be festive, and kids can help by making centerpieces or name cards to mark each participant’s place at the table.  (Check out Creative Jewish Mom for craft ideas for the holiday.)  Such things need not be complicated; you’re trying to prepare, after all.  Just give them construction, scrapbooking, or Bristol paper, glue and beads or sequins, markers, or whatever you have to make something unique for each place setting.

Pesach is a family affair, and the participation of the whole family (including spouses who work outside the home, even if it’s just to put in half an hour a day before or after work) ensures that the work gets done and at the end of it all, on seder night, everyone feels they’ve earned their freedom.

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Ever since Adar I began, thoughts and plans for Purim have been occupying the Crunches.  The kids are deciding on costumes (and getting corrected constantly for saying, “dress up into”), I’m beginning to think about mishloach manot packages, and my parents will be visiting us, so I plan to enlist my mother’s help in making hamantashen this year, with apricot jam, chocolate, and prune fillings.

The first art project to find its way into my hands last week was a detailed group picture by five-year-old Banana of Mordechai, Esther, and Ahashverosh.  Nothing warms the cockles of a mother’s heart like her kid’s rendering of Mordechai in smiley-face pajamas, a dwarf Ahashverosh with Star-of-David robes (after his probable conversion on learning his bride was Jewish), and Esther towering over them with rainbow and smiley-face gown, fine jewelry, and long, curling tresses.  So print one out, everyone, and get out the crayons.  It’s coloring time!

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Self service

One of the many roles I fill in the Crunch household is that of Tyrant of Order.  (This is in opposition to the Cap’n and the children, who are the Demons of Chaos.)  Everyone dirties their clothes; I wash them.  Everyone leaves their stuff all over the house; I tidy it up (or yell at them to do it if they’re home).  Everyone eats three square a day; I plan, shop, cook, and clean up.  Everyone gets dirty (or even better, lice) and I wash and comb them (’cepting the Cap’n, of course).

A few things around the house have gone from being full serve to self serve.  I can no longer keep up with folding the girls’ laundry, so when it comes out of the dryer or off the drying rack, it goes straight into a basket that I dump in the kids’ room once a week for them to fold.  (This has the added advantage that it gives them something to do for an hour a week, and provides endless opportunity for fights to break out, leaving me the rest of the house to myself.)  The kids pitch in with other chores, like stocking the bathroom vanities with toilet paper, emptying bathroom trash, cleaning the bathroom mirrors, sinks, and counters.  They cut and arrange beautiful crudite platters for weeknight dinners.  And they know they are expected to help with setting and clearing the table (though they always need reminding to do this).

As of today, there is a new item on the self-service roster: they’re going to make their own snacks and lunches for school.  Peach sat at the breakfast table this morning and grumbled about being given a pita-hummus-cucumber sandwich yet AGAIN, and that was the last straw for me.  I remember my mother yelling up the stairs every morning when I was in first grade, asking what I wanted her to make for my lunch.  After a year of listening to me dither, she threw up her hands and turned over that thankless job to me, and for the rest of my school days I made my own lunches.  I think it’s time the Crunch children did the same.  (Banana is only 5½ , but so precocious that when she wants to earn the same allowance as her sisters, she always finds the wherewithal to do the same work.)  Tonight after dinner, the pita, hummus, butter and jam, labaneh, vegetables, fruit, cheese, crackers, and everything else are coming out for the little darlings to assemble their own lunches.  And except for packing Bill his usual box of assorted dainties, I’ll be off the hook.   (The Cap’n has a high-class commissary at work—meat and dairy—and hasn’t made his lunch for work in 4½ years.)

It’s all part of my role as Tyrant of Order to cut down the dirt and clutter in the house—though often at the expense of quiet.  Turning over lunches to the girls will probably go the way of turning over laundry—more fights and yelling, but less hassle and frustration for me.  Ah, well.  All good things come at a price.

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At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s father says, “For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”  Many will join me in observing that sometimes our “neighbors” are also our own family members.  What teenager doesn’t find himself embarrassed by his parents’ bizarre attire (think here of Dad’s plaid shorts and dark socks), probing questions in front of friends, or sharing embarrassing childhood memories or photos with the teen’s friends?

But I can safely say that anything the Cap’n and I do later in life to embarrass our children (funny accents, bad grammar, or embarrassing malapropisms in Hebrew, for example) will be no more than payback for the kinds of things we have experienced from our children.  Samples of embarrassing public behavior that come to mind include an explosive bowel movement from one of our newborns at a solemn unveiling of a dear friend’s tombstone at the cemetery; loud singing by our children of a culturally offensive, Chinese-themed ditty in a Chinese restaurant; and loud querying of me in the Gush Junction Rami Levi supermarket, “Are those people over there Arabs?”  This excludes, of course, the outlandish, Cyndi Lauper-esque outfits and hair-dos the girls put together for school and Shabbat, about which I say nothing and don’t feel embarrassed, since one doesn’t learn to dress and groom oneself overnight, and I’d rather they leave the house looking ridiculous than have to get up half an hour earlier to micromanage their wardrobes and play hairdresser to them every day.  Peach often has a half-dozen ponytails in her hair, plus a dozen clips and assorted ribbons, and even after Banana has brushed her hair, she still looks like Beethoven in a wind tunnel.  I say nothing.

So I certainly hope I don’t have to hear what an embarrassment I am to my children in another eight years or so.  (The Cap’n, however, keeps a stash of dark socks to wear with his deck shoes and plaid shorts for when the girls are teens.)  If I do hear complaints, I will simply refer them to this post, and say, “Quid pro quo, my dear.”

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Do less?

A friend of mine just posted to Facebook that many of the blogs she’s been reading with New Year’s resolutions for 2011 have as a goal to “do less.”

I’m as puzzled as she is.  Where her friends have agreed that choosing projects wisely and prioritizing one’s activities should be the real goals, and not just doing fewer things overall, my question when I look at my own life is, “How can I possibly do less?”  My days consist of doing the bare minimum to keep my life, this house, and my family afloat, and very few extras.  Between packing snacks and lunches, laundry, bathing, dressing, shopping, planning,  cooking, homework, reading, doctors’ and dentists’ appointments, driving to afterschool activities, phone calls and meetings with teachers and other professionals about the kids, having kids home sick (which has been frequent of late with flu, two cases of chicken pox, and now a stomach virus), a little editing here and there for parnasa, and occasionally writing for this blog, I really don’t see what can give up.

As my friend’s friends said, it’s all about choices.  I’d love to do less than I’m doing, but if what I’m doing is just the bare minimum, the only way to do less is to have someone else do it for me.  The kids are independent in some ways (Beans does laundry and changes Bill’s diapers, Banana stocks toilet paper in the bathroom cupboards and takes out the bathroom trash, and Peach washes bathroom counters and mirrors and takes out the recycling), but they’re still young.  To pay a nanny so I could go out of the house and work (which sounds extravagant, but with four kids makes more sense than separate afternoon care out of the house for each of them) would still get into serious money, and probably devour every last shekel of my salary.  I could pay a house cleaner, but it’s cheaper to lower my standards and yell at the kids a few times a week to clean up their stuff (and clean up the rest myself), doesn’t require me to race around the house to get it ready for strangers to clean it anyway, and also sends the children the message that we all live here and have to do our share.  We could eat out more, and there are some days when there is just no time to make dinner.  (I can also justify getting a pizza at the local pizza joint once in a while because we’re supporting our neighbors who own it.)  But that too gets spendy if done too often.  We could give up going out altogether, but we already stopped eating out on date nights (can’t remember the last time the two of us went to a restaurant alone) and the Beit Shemesh classical concert series and the occasional movie are some of the few chances I get to go out in the evenings and see and hear new things.  Most of our entertainment consists of popcorn or grapefruit halves in front of “Star Trek,” “Dr. Who,” or one of my British costume things at home.  Give up the work?  Just kidding.  Give up this blog?  I’ve thought about it.  But I really don’t think that would be possible as it’s one of my few outlets for thought and writing.

I often feel trapped in this life.  I spent several summers working in the service industry (McDonald’s, cleaning up after National Guardsmen) and while it’s always something to fall back on, it’s not much of a career.  I love my family, but it was probably better that I didn’t realize in advance how much like the service industry it was going to be (plus a lot of secretarial, chauffeur, and psychological duties thrown in).  I have nothing but admiration for women who work out of the house, either by necessity or choice.  But it was also gratifying to have the Cap’n home for a couple of days when the kids were particularly edgy.  At one point when they were murdering each other in the basement (instead of cleaning it up), he collapsed on the couch next to me, leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and said, “Stay-at-home mothers are saints.”  It was all I needed to hear.

My New Year’s resolution for 2011?  Keep doing what I’m doing and try to stay sane.

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Banana came home the other day and announced that her rav at mechina (preparatory kindergarten) had told the girls that in the home, the husband makes the decisions and the wife obeys the husband.

I’ll give you a minute.

Okay?  Good.

Once the Cap’n and I had picked our jaws up off the floor, I remembered that Banana’s rav is Sephardi.  (He also tells the girls it’s assur to eat fish with dairy and who knows what all else.)  I don’t mean to impugn Sephardim, but many—especially those who came to Israel from Arabic-speaking countries—have not encountered anything like a women’s movement in their communities.  So after a giggle and a snort, I pointed out to my five-year-old that in the Crunch household, Ima and Abba are partners and work together as a team.  There are things that Abba does better and takes responsibility for, and things that Ima does better and sees to.  But our strength comes from acting as equals, not from having one person in charge and another subservient (though by assuming the traditional stay-at-home mom role and doing most of the chores, it probably looks that way).

A friend of mine once told me that her four-year-old son told her that “Mans [sic] work and mommies stay home.”  My friend had a Ph.D. but had chosen (for the time being) to be at home with her young children, as I did.  It’s galling sometimes to feel like we have to give up our image as educated, intelligent beings in order to provide our children with parental care in their early years.  But perhaps at the same time it affords the opportunity to explain the complexities of feminism and modern life to tell them about our choices, and point out the choices other mothers make to go out and work, or fathers to stay home, or parents to have their children cared for by others while both parents work.

I sometimes think we’re going down a weird road by sending our kids to the frummier schools in Efrat.  But then again, we have plenty of  interesting conversations at home as a result, and our kids don’t take for granted what we do in our house when they know that other people do things differently.  We explain to them in neutral ways why other families do what they do, and why we do what we do.

Given that some Jewish families—both those who do a lot and those who do almost nothing—often don’t discuss why, perhaps in the end my kids are getting a better education after all.

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Bill is turning out to be a charming boy.  At 21 months he is smallish and skinny, but with hazel eyes, a winning smile, and an irresistible giggle, he has also begun cultivating the social graces the Cap’n and I hold so dear.  (Read about ’em here, here, and here.)  When I sneeze, he says, “Ah-too, Mama.”  When he asks for more of something and I prompt him, he says, “Peez, Mama.”  And he regularly says “da-da” (infantese for todah, or “thank you” in Hebrew) when given something, with no prompting.

So for those out there who think teaching children manners can wait until they’re in school, or in the army, or never, I would like to point out that not only can babies be taught manners at an early age, but that even boys are educable.  (That last was the Cap’n’s observation.)

So parents of eligible daughters, begin placing your bids for my boy now.

And enrollment in Auntie Shim’s Etiquette Boot Camp begins this summer.

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I drive to the Yellow Hill near Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion a few times a week, taking the kids to swim lessons or gymnastics.  Our route there frequently passes Arab shepherds herding goats or sheep, speeding Arab taxis ferrying passengers between Hebron and Bethlehem, Arabs on horseback or driving donkey-drawn carts.

Somehow, these sights often inspire commentary from Peach (the only political animal among my children so far).  The other day, while driving with my kids in the car, Peach announced, “I hate Arabs.”

It’s difficult sometimes to temper my young children’s reactions to the things they hear around them.  A family we know lost their son, murdered at the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva a few years ago.  The murderer?  An Arab.  The four people killed in a car just south of here in August were killed by an Arab.  The security fence (some sections of which appear as a wall around here) was built to keep out Arab terrorists.  The people who demand that we stop building in our yishuv so they can fritter away more time not making peace with us?  Arabs.

Nevertheless, I don’t like the word “hate.”  It’s very strong, and there is nothing essentially hateful in an Arab.  They are human beings, like we are.  They eat, sleep, learn, work, love and live much as we do.  They are as much God’s creation as we are, and I don’t think it’s right to hate them.

What I do sanction is anger at their leadership, those who would harm us or poison others against us, and suspicion of them in general.  While there may be some who don’t deny the right of Jews to live in their ancestral homeland, this study done by the Israel Project indicates that most Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank would like to see Israel disappear and be replaced by a Palestinian state.  This isn’t shocking to me, or even surprising.  I don’t blame them, because honestly, I feel the same about them.  I was honest with Peach when I told her that if I were to wake up tomorrow morning and this land would be magically empty of Arabs, I would breathe a sigh of relief, much of my low-grade but ever-present anxiety would melt away, and I would feel utterly joyous.  I don’t want them dead, or harmed in any way.  I want them safely, comfortably settled with dignity—somewhere else.

This, I would point out, is more than can be said for most Arabs.  Violence against Jews is common currency in Arab society and shedding Jewish blood scores major brownie points.  (Consider the fact that this Arab man, released from prison and accused by others in his community of being a collaborator, sought to restore his own reputation by stabbing a Jewish woman.)  In addition, while I’m honest about the facts of what happens in Israel with Peach, I try to discourage her from hating even those who wish us dead and  I certainly don’t teach her hateful, nasty, biologically absurd ideas about our enemies being descended from pigs and monkeys the way Arabs teach their children about Jews.

Perhaps because I deliberately keep my views about Arabs complex and murky, I can tell that Beans is sometimes confused.  She has at least one Arab man working at her school, and she speaks of him as a friendly person.  She is also eager to learn to speak Arabic.  When I asked her why, she wasn’t sure, only that she seemed to think that it makes sense living where we live to understand each other.  Yet at the same time, knowing what some Arabs have done (such as tried to blow up our little supermarket in Efrat years ago), she feels nervous around Arabs she doesn’t know.  When I take her to the Rami Levi supermarket at the Gush Etzion Junction where Jews and Arabs work and shop alongside one another, she often asks softly if a group of Arab men entering the store in front of us are Arabs.  The answer is usually yes, but I also point out to her that the security guard has a metal detector wand which he waves around every Arab man’s waistline, front and back, to prevent anyone with an explosive belt from entering the building.  I don’t know if that makes her feel better (or me, for that matter), but I try to show her that while Arabs are allowed to shop in Jewish-owned stores, given the past behavior of some Arabs THEY are the ones who get the wand treatment, and I (a woman with fair hair and skin, young children in tow, and only a small pack around my waist outside my shirt) do not.

There are times when I think that playing the game by Arab rules is appropriate.  Meeting violence with harsh reprisals (targeted killings, air strikes in response to missiles fired at Israel, life imprisonment with no chance of parole or exchange for those with blood on their hands) is the very least Israel can do to maintain its self-respect when dealing with people who see mercy as weakness, justice as laughable, restraint as capitulation, and targeting civilians as legitimate.  But when it comes to hatred, glorification of murder and suicide, and dehumanization, I think Israel is wise not to join them.  Our God commands us to love life and do all we can to preserve it—theirs as well as ours.  This is an area where I think Israel really gets it right.

Does it make life any easier, or my lessons to my children any clearer?  Definitely not.  But life is rarely that easy.  It’s part of the epiphany I had the other day where I realized that there is nothing more fulfilling than being Jewish, and at the same time nothing as burdensome.

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While the Cap’n put the girls to bed tonight, Bill subjected me to one of our countless games of parental Marco Polo.


“Yes, B.”



“Yes, B.”



“Yes, B.”



“Yes, B.”



“Yes, B.”






“Yes, B.”




“Knee,” pointing to own knee that got slightly skinned yesterday.

“Yes, you scraped your knee.  Is it feeling better?”





“Yes, B?”


“Yes, B?”


“Yes, B?”


“Yes, B?”

“Mama.” “Yes, B?” “Mama.” “Yes, B?” “MamaYes, B?MamaYesB?MamaYesB!!!!!!!”


Gritted teeth.  “Yes, B?”


“Yes, B.”

If I wanted to save some money, I could take this kid out of day care and have him home with me ALL DAY LONG.  Then again, perhaps that 1000 shekels a month is well spent after all.

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Back to work

Nine years ago I made the complicated, difficult decision to leave my cushy teaching job in order to stay home with my newborn (first) child.  There were so many factors that figured into that decision: economics (it was cheaper than working and having all my salary—and then some—go to childcare), my desire to be with my baby (breastfeeding, witnessing her milestones, attachment-style parenting), and the very simply-put observation a friend made to me, that I could go out every day and teach other people’s children while paying someone else to teach my child, or I could stay home and teach my own child.

The decision was not an easy one.  First-time parenting was nerve-wracking, worrisome, exhausting, and it took months for my feminist ego to get used to being supported by my husband while being at home.  I knew in my heart that I was making a valuable contribution to the family, both financially and parentally, but it was still difficult.  Through that long first winter, in my sleep-deprived stupor, I would pray for Beans to wet her cloth diaper to give me something to do to kill five minutes.

I’ve been home for many years now.  At various times, I have taken on things that resembled work such as tutoring high school kids in English, and editing a book or divrei Torah for Web publication.  But primarily, I have been at home with my children (and busy enough not to wish for extra diaper changes).  And with each successive child, I have been able to let go a little more of my own responsibilities, leaving them for an entire day with my husband to attend a funeral in Maine, putting Banana in daycare to attend ulpan, and Bill in same to preserve my sanity and enable me to do errands and home improvement projects (like ripping up carpet or painting a rusting iron fence) during the morning.  The children have all adjusted to whatever I threw their way, and I’ve enjoyed the many different phases motherhood has gone through.

And now I’m embarking on yet another new phase.  The Cap’n recently started a new job with an Israeli company.  By Israeli standards, he’s making a pretty decent salary.  By American standards, he’s panhandling at the Kenmore T stop.  This means that in order to “clear the housekeeping” I need to look for some work.  After considering a few possibilities, I’ve settled on returning to English teaching.  Israel’s education system is, if possible, worse than the American one, and the salaries are even lower.  The only thing that pays less and has as little prestige is—you guessed it—stay-at-home motherhood.  But it’s what I love, it’s what I trained to do (and am still paying off) and it’s the best option to allow me to be at home with my kids in the afternoons and over the summer.  I’ll probably have to cover my hair to teach or substitute.  (Blah.)  I’ll probably need more coursework to get my certification in Israel.  (Double blah.)  But it will provide steady work, a steady trickle of income, and I think I’ll be a much better teacher now, nine years and four kids later than I was before—mellower, more aware of students’ different learning styles and difficulties, and take myself less seriously.

All I need now is a hat that says LIONTAMER on it…

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One thing I’ve learned about the Jewish world (especially in Israel) is the power of memory.  Jews aren’t supposed to forget things: the exodus from Egypt, that we were once strangers in a strange land, the widow and the orphan.  And we keep days in the calendar on which we remember events such as the destruction of the Temples (Tisha B’Av), the Shoah, the soldiers and victims of terror who have fallen in Israel, the trees (Tu B’Shvat), our deliverance from destruction in Persia (Purim).

Memory is collective, but also more personal.  I remember the bumper crop of Chabad kindergartners named Menachem Mendel about 5 years after the Lubavitcher Rebbe died.  And last night at dinner Beans told us there is a new girl in her class.  Her name is Shalhevet, and she lives in…  I knew before the word was out of Beans’s mouth.  Hevron.  Because in the spring of 2001 (when the Cap’n and I were visiting Israel and I was pregnant with Beans) an Arab terrorist shot Shalhevet Pass, age 10 months, in her stroller as she was out with her family in their hometown of Hevron.  She was one of the early victims of the Palestinian Terror War that stretched from Arafat’s refusal to end the conflict at Camp David in 2000 until 2006.

There is a feeling where I live that things are heating up again.  There is a new solid wall going up next to the Tunnel Road into Jerusalem.  Three Israeli policemen were killed in their vehicle near Hevron a couple of months ago.  Four Israelis were murdered on the road to their village two nights ago, including a couple with six children (the mother was pregnant with their seventh); a newly wedded husband; and a wife and mother of a young daughter.  And now, I read that two more Israelis have been wounded on the road.  To remember the more than 1000 Israelis killed since the “peace process” began, the Efrat chat list has been carrying a conversation about establishing a memorial to the victims of terror, many of whom lived in Efrat.

I sometimes try to remember what it was like to forget.  The daily reminders that there are no borders, no security, no peace, make living here a fatiguing experience.  And yet I remember hearing about Sigmund Freud’s battle with cancer of the jaw.  His doctor prescribed opiates for the pain (sort of like what living in America was for me), but when he tried to take them, it made his mind go fuzzy and numb.  In the end, he chose to go without the drugs, preferring to remain clear-headed and to feel the full joy of life, dealing with the pain as best he could.  I know if I were to go back to America to try to escape the sadness, the anxiety, the anger, I wouldn’t stay.  I might enjoy a break of a few days, a week or two, and then want to be back on a plane again.  The joy of living here, even with all of the sorrow, is too great.  So we live with the memories, and the present, as best we can.

Perhaps some good will come of Netanyahu’s meeting with Abbas, though we all doubt it here.  What matters most is that we’re here.

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Talboshet achida

Amid the filling out of forms, organizing notebooks, sharpening pencils, and other such school prep trivia, I have also been buying Beans and Peach uniform shirts (talboshet achida).  It seems Education Minister Gideon Saar has issued a proclamation that all kids in elementary and middle schools must wear uniform shirts: solid color t-shirts with the school insignia silkscreened on the upper left of the chest.  (Pants and skirts seem not to be an issue with the Education Ministry at this time.)

Having worked in schools for many years, I am aware of the many issues around children’s clothing.  There are the economic differences between wealthier and poorer students.  There are the fashions and fads that come and go.  And there are the clothes of questionable taste (slutwear, shirts sporting innuendoes, etc.).   Uniforms offer a low-tech solution to many of these problems.

As it happens, I am not thrilled at having to buy special shirts for my girls for school.  In the past few years, I have bought them beautiful long-sleeved cotton dresses to wear in the cooler weather that are more comfortable worn with pants and leggings than skirts are (with their two waistbands bunched together).  And the style of these uniform shirts is very little different from the shirts I normally buy for them, so now they have a closet brimming with two wardrobes worth of short-, ¾-length, and long-sleeved t-shirts, some with and some without insignia.

But even I can see an advantage in these uniform shirts.  I’ve never bought the argument that children (i.e. anyone under university level) MUST express themselves through their clothing.  (On the contrary, I think it leads to stereotyping and cliques much more than everyone wearing the same clothing but being viewed much more as individuals.)  And good riddance now to the phone calls from the rav at Peach’s school about the length of Peach’s sleeves.  Beans’s school, with characteristic ditziness, waited until I’d already bought short-sleeved shirts for the warm weather and long-sleeved shirts for the winter to email the parents and request that we buy only long-sleeved shirts for the girls.  At least the shirts are inexpensive, and I bought both girls at least a size or two bigger than what they really wear to avoid buying new ones every year.  They’re not of the highest quality, though, so we’ll see how long they last.  I heard one parent lament that the silkscreening is poor quality and that the insignia will wear off quickly.  Who cares? I answered.  They’re still the uniform shirts.  If they want me to bring them in and have the insignia reapplied, I’ll do it (as long as it’s free).  If not, I won’t, and they’ll wear them as they are.

So while I don’t necessarily share the Education Minister’s concerns about inappropriate clothing (at least where my own children are concerned), in principle I am supportive of uniforms.  In my last two years of high school, I attended a girls’ school where we wore uniforms.  We looked like 1960s hospital nurses during the warmer months and—with our red-and-green Dewar plaid kilts—like Christmas trees in winter.  But still, I loved not wondering what I would wear every morning.  I loved that while the rich girls may have had cashmere or lambswool sweaters compared to the other girls’ cotton or acrylic, at least from a reasonable distance we weren’t really distinguishable.  Geeks looked like the drama queens, who looked like the debutantes, who looked like the field hockey jocks, who looked like everyone else.  And I like the notion that kids should not judge others or be judged themselves by what they wear, and should express their individuality through their middot (positive character), talents, strengths, interests, and promise.

After all, uniforms don’t impose any roles or expectations on kids, do they?

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe.  With the kids home, though, I’ve been thinking of things they can make with me that involve simple chopping, measuring, and mixing.  I’ve also been teaching them that many of the things we tend to buy in stores ready-made can be made more wholesomely, deliciously, and cheaply at home.  I’ve also been thinking of sweet, comforting food in the midst of dealing with some of my more stodgy, anti-kid neighbors who arranged for large boulders to be placed in the middle of the neighborhood park to prevent children from playing there.  My spirit and my soul have needed a good nourishing, and the food that popped into my mind this time was not chocolate, homemade toffee, or ice cream (though those are three great tastes that taste great together).  It was simple, homely granola.

Here’s a recipe my mother gave me ages ago in the first version of her homemade cookbook that has since gone through many editions in my hands.  It’s called “New Granola,” but it’s a golden oldie with me.

5 cups oats

1 cup chopped apple (I chop ¾ cup dried apple)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (sweet caramelized pecans work nicely here)

1 cup raisins

¾ cup melted butter

½ cup packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoon cinnamon

While I usually skip this step, you can toast the oats first on a cookie sheet at 350ºF (180ºC) for 10-12 minutes.  Combine the oats with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.  Serve with milk or yogurt.  Or just eat it straight out of the container.

Peace, love, and granola, man.

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My presence in the blogosphere has been pretty sparse lately.  Some of it is due to the near-blackout I’ve had since Bezeq (the phone company and our internet provider) “upgraded” the service in my area.  It’s also been because I have been weighing my options returning to the world of work.  But more than anything it’s been due to the fact that for the last few weeks, I’ve had at least one child at home, and beginning this week, all of them for the rest of the summer.

This hasn’t scared me as much as it might have in the past.  With getting older has come an increased ability to do things for themselves.  It has also made them more helpful around the house, so that any complaints of boredom are met with a possible list of tasks around the house in my service.  During the school year, the girls have school or gan every day but Shabbat.  This, plus whatever after-school activities they have going on, give them very little time to pull out their many craft supplies and spend a chunk of time producing something.  We have little time to read to one another, or to sit and watch videos on YouTube and talk about them.  This summer has given us plenty of time around the table while sucking on ice pops, talking about friendships, birthday plans, school uniforms (a new requirement for Beans), and the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann by the Mossad.  The girls have made some headway making sukkah decorations to replace those destroyed by a rainstorm last year.  They continue to practice what they learned in gymnastics on their new mats.  Banana has learned the alphabet.  They’re all teaching Bill to talk.  Beans and Peach are learning to sew and have each completed a couple of cute projects.  I gave Banana her first couple of swimming lessons.  I have finished reading them the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, read Roald Dahl’s Boy, James and the Giant Peach, and Danny, the Champion of the World, recently completed Alice In Wonderland, and am now in the middle of Through the Looking Glass.

My summers growing up almost never included any camp attendance.  (The one exception was a two-week girl scout day camp experience when I was 11.)  I loved waking up at leisure, puttering around, reading, sewing, playing with friends, running through the sprinklers, and going to bed while the sun had not yet set.  (I didn’t like the dark.)  I helped my mother grow a vegetable garden, and would go pick a lettuce as she was making dinner at night, and make a salad of it and the tender little carrots I would pull out of the ground.  There were raspberries and grapes growing in our yard, and we children would occasionally be impressed into blueberry or blackberry picking service, being turned loose in the blistering heat with coffee cans hanging from our necks with twine.  (Okay, those weren’t my best summer memories, since my mother would make pies from the berries and my piece always seemed to be the one with an earwig or a wasp in it.)  Oregon was a wonderland for me in every season, and summers were sunny and dry with only the occasional day or stretch of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our house was comfortable in every kind of weather, and our yard shady, grassy, full of flowers, an apple tree, and a filbert (hazelnut) bush, with a swing hanging from a bough of the large maple (which I would as soon climb as swing from).

I try not to be a parent who over-schedules her children’s time.  They are free to choose whom they play with, and are encouraged to make their own phone calls to arrange dates.  But their schooldays by nature are filled with lessons, homework, and the few chugim (activities) that they themselves choose and I encourage.  Beans and Peach attend gymnastics classes twice a week, which have done wonders for building their strength, coordination, and flexibility.  Banana has had a great introduction to tae kwon do through a kiddie class, and wishes to continue.  Aside from those, I am resolved this year only to add swimming lessons to their schedule to enable us to skip camps altogether next summer and get a membership at a kibbutz pool a short drive away instead.  With the kids ages 5, 7 and 9 (turning 6, 8 and 10 next summer) I will only have to watch 2-year-old Bill closely at the pool.  Packing a picnic and towels, we can while away the hours with friends who also have a membership there, playing, swimming, and spending time outdoors—exactly what summers are for.

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Soon after Bill was born, I blogged about co-sleeping with him (as I had my other children).  He’s been a fantastic mattress buddy: quiet, cuddly but not clingy, and rolls away after nursing to allow me the space to get comfortable and go back to sleep.  (The girls all insisted I hold them all night.  VERY high maintenance.)

But in recent weeks, I have noticed a change.  First of all, he’s bigger than he was as a newborn.  (He’s now 18 months old.)  He still nags me to nurse several times a night, and doesn’t take kindly to refusals.  And he’s taken up the habit of rotating himself in the bed so that he’s perpendicular to the Cap’n and me, forcing both of us to the edges of our mattresses.  In addition to these issues, summer is here with an unusually high mosquito population, and Bill has been eaten alive on several nights.

The girls were this age (or younger) when we transitioned them into their own beds.  The fact that we live in a house with stairs now means it’s a bit more complicated than putting baby in a bed down the hall and escorting him back if he tries to sneak – or storm – back into the room.  So Bill is in a portable crib (with a fitted mosquito net) in an alcove off our room.  This keeps him out of traffic areas in our bedroom, and out of sightlines of us.

We’ve had a few pretty sleepless nights (erev Shabbat he howled for three and a half hours straight), but every night it gets better, and he’s slowly coming to accept that this nylon-and-mesh hoosegow is his new bed.  And I am finally able to put away the bedrail, stretch out, and – theoretically – sleep through the night (though I think motherhood has ruined that for me forever).

There’s something bittersweet about going through all the familiar phases with Bill: swapping up the infant carseat for a convertible one, retiring the baby backpack, and now moving him out of the bed.  Bitter because we don’t anticipate doing this again in the future, and it’s gone by so fast.  But sweet because every piece of my body, my personal space, and my life I get back is a little bit of sweetness that was temporarily suspended, and is now returning.

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A couple of years ago, there were a few posts on Jameel’s blog about Bat-El Gaterer, a young religious Israeli woman who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Tae Kwon Do.  Many of the writers in the comments section wrote to praise her hard work and pride in representing Israel at the Olympics.

But a few people sounded more concerned about a religious girl wearing pants than why she was wearing them.  I’ve had a few conversations about modesty on my blog, and the push and pull between what is the general practice where I live, what is practical in view of the weather here, and what is comfortable and/or reasonable given the level of activity.  It’s an ongoing struggle to get 6-year-old Peach to wear the required three-quarter sleeves to school in hot weather.  (Fortunately, school is now out and they’re off to camp in short sleeves.)  I myself continue to favor skirts over trousers the majority of the time, though for comfort and warmth in the winter, I still have a couple of pairs of L.L. Bean’s wide-leg jeans.

But this conversation about Bat-El Gaterer, stale though it was, still bothered me.  Someone pointed out that women successfully fenced in long skirts.  (Now THAT’s a cool sport.)  Women also entered archery competitions in full femme-regalia (hoopskirts, corsets, tight-fitting bodices, bustles—the works).  But for the majority of sports, long skirts just aren’t practical.  Since the essence of many sports is flexibility, skirts get in the way—with speed, skirts make serious drag; and in sports where being upside down is a factor, such as gymnastics … well, you get the idea.

The implication behind the view that religious Jewish females must always wear long skirts is that participating in sports where long skirts are an impediment is unseemly.  This attitude of some in the Jewish world troubles me.  Girls are already excluded from the rituals of synagogue Jewish life.  They cannot become Orthodox rabbis (or at least not in the mainstream of Orthodoxy).  And the majority of their functions in Judaism—lighting candles, mikvah, Shabbat and holiday meal orchestration—take place in the privacy of the home or behind closed doors.  In converting to Judaism, I accepted this status quo within the framework of Jewish practice.  Outside that framework, however, I think a little more flexibility would not be amiss.

Years ago I was doing some Jewish learning with other members of my synagogue community in the US.  We were studying some of the interpretations of halacha that govern the design of the worshipers’ areas at the Western Wall, and someone observed that the rabbinate has turned the Western Wall into an Orthodox shul.  Another person moaned, “They’ve made the whole country into an Orthodox shul.”  I don’t think turning our entire lives into an Orthodox shul is a very good idea, least of all for girls.  While we should never abandon our sense of obligation to keep mitzvot and view the human body with respect, we should also bear in mind that giving both boys and girls opportunities to play and participate in sports is important for the promotion of good health, teamwork, sportsmanship, agility and physical development, self esteem, healthy body image, and time management.  Adopting the view that girls may not change out of their long skirts into pants, leotards, shorts, shorter skirts, or swimsuits dooms them to inactivity and a sense of modesty so oppressive that it is bound to make them feel ashamed of their own bodies—not, I hope, the goal of the long skirt.

The sense of empowerment and self esteem that dance, soccer, martial arts, and other sports create for girls is essential to a girl’s healthy development.  And girls with good self esteem are better prepared to perform well in school, find gainful employment, and cultivate healthy relationships (including marriage).

I did not watch Bat-El compete in Beijing, but I did attend 5-year-old Banana’s Tae Kwon Do exhibition, featuring her kiddie class as well as at least 100 other older kids showcasing what they’ve learned.  Boys and girls alike demonstrated their considerable skills in kicks, punches, no-handed cartwheels, and leaps for kvelling parents, siblings, and grandparents.  Looking at Banana’s potential, and thinking of the strength, endurance, and joy I’ve received from hiking, swimming, running, soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, dance, and all the other physical pursuits I enjoyed as a kid and as an adult, I wouldn’t deny those things to any girl, religious or not.

My favorite comment from the thread for “Frum Olympian Girl Who Kicks Boys” was from Benji Lovett, who said, “Hopefully she will inspire other fighters to become religious women.”

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